NPNA: Naturalization Backlog Up 100.05% In in Two Years

2 million immigrants apply to naturalize, 734,000 stuck in the pipeline

From the National Partnership for New Americans:

In just the last two years, a record setting 1,957,189 immigrants in the U.S. have applied to naturalize and become U.S. citizens. However, in the same period, the backlog of lawful permanent residents waiting for their citizenship applications to be processed increased from 367,009 to 734,209, a shocking 100.05% increase in the number of pending applications in two years. The exploding citizenship backlogs of the Trump administration have become a "Second Wall" that prevents lawful permanent residents from becoming voting U.S. citizens.

Read NPNA's Report Update and Breakdown of New USCIS Data here

and find how the backlogs are affecting your state and city.

Last fall NPNA released our report Building a Second Wall: USCIS Backlogs Preventing Immigrants from Becoming Citizens , and this was reported on by the New York Times. The report showed that due to the racist rhetoric and increased immigration enforcement of the current administration, and the support of community based organizations, labor unions, municipal governments and efforts like the Naturalize NOW Campaign, record numbers of lawful permanent residents are applying for U.S. citizenship. But, instead of being welcomed and supported on their path to citizenship, they are met by enormous backlogs and lengthening processing times. Now the fourth quarter numbers of FY17 have been released, and the problem has worsened with the wait time between application and becoming a U.S. citizen exceeding a year in many places.

The 734,209 lawful permanent residents whose U.S. citizenship applications are stuck in the backlogs have filed their 20 page N-400 Citizenship Application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS.), submitted their fingerprints for a background check, and paid their substantial $725 application fee. Now they are awaiting the oral and written naturalization test on their knowledge of U.S. history and government and the moving Oath Ceremony, where they swear allegiance to the U.S. Constitution and assume their full rights and responsibilities of a U.S. citizen.

The cause of these backlogs is either bureaucratic incompetence or an intentional and malicious "slow walking" of naturalization applications to prevent lawful permanent residents from becoming voting U.S. citizens. This is a "Second Wall" and it must be torn down.

Through excessive and extreme vetting targeting immigrants from African and Muslim countries (the "Muslim Ban"), the gutting of our refugee resettlement system, raids in immigrant communities, and the cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the current administration has waged a full attack on immigrant communities. Now the slow destruction of our naturalization system and the suppression of future immigrant voters is being added to the list. We must tear down the "Second Wall" and continue to support our communities to #NaturalizeNOW.

Citizenship (N400) Applications Received & Pending Nationally

Fiscal Year





Applications Received





Applications Pending

in Q4





In FY16 there were 971,242 applications received, and there were 522,565 applications pending in the fourth quarter . This is a 24.05% increase in applications, but also a 42.38% increase in the backlogs, over 2015.

In FY17 there were 985,947 applications received, and there were 734,209 applications pending in the fourth quarter. This is a total of 1,957,189 applications since FY15, and a huge 100.05% increase in the backlogs over 2015 levels.

Read NPNA's Full Report Update here and our Original Report and Policy Recommendations from October 2017 here.

We must tear down this "Second Wall" and push USCIS to return to the public service mission that was previously its focus, prioritize casework resources to reduce the naturalization backlogs, and work with civil society organizations and government at all levels to promote a national naturalization push.

In solidarity,

Steve Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and NPNA Co-Chair

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